Assessment of Perceptions/Concerns
By the conclusion of the election, the Sheriff’s Office will have gone through a year of what is essentially an ‘internal election’.This long period of uncertainty tends to cause stress on the agency and the people within. I have heard several stories about agency personnel who feel as if their careers are over for supporting me, so there will obviously be those who feel as if their careers are over if I win. It will be important to let my team know that the past is the past and that we all need to work together going forward to give the best service to our community that we can. As far as I’m concerned, bygones will be bygones, and we will all be one family. I will meet with groups and individuals within the department to hear their needs and concerns and to elicit opinions on any ideas they may have to move the department forward professionally and as a team.
While campaigning, I have found that different aspects of the community have varied concerns.Besides the overarching concern for public safety, many groups feel marginalized. We need to do better at making that less of a reality for them. In the first six months, I will hold many town hall meetings in various parts of the county to hear resident concerns. I don’t plan to speak as much as to actively listen. I also plan to move forward with holding meetings with the leadership (formal or informal) of marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, the Latinx community, and others to hear their concerns as well. Law enforcement can be the most effective only when the community trusts the agency that serves them. This trust cannot be accomplished without active listening and giving a voice to people who may currently feel as if they have none.
Studies show that the amount of training and education one receives in law enforcement is directly related to the amount of force that a person uses on the job. Although the use of force is not always avoidable, it is vital to do anything, by guidance rather than edict, to reduce the net effect of force. While we currently do a good job in use of force training, particularly at the line-level, we have failed our line staff in leadership training. Simply put, all deputies should have the opportunity to learn why supervisors make the decisions they do on a daily basis. As a first-line supervisor, I had many conversations with those for whom I had oversight about numerous topics that could be included in leadership training. From knowledge of liabilities to how to motivate, care for, or hold persons accountable, there are several stories, books, and videos available that would give deputies a 30,000-foot view, allowing them to make decisions as if they were already supervisors. The result would be that those who were interested in promoting and becoming responsible for others in the agency would already be well on their way to knowing what is expected of them and how to manage a team before they are ever officially given the leadership title. I have created a leadership training program for line-level staff that I intend to implement, in current or modified form, if staff feel there are improvements that can be made.
As currently proposed, the program would have three sessions wherein the “student” reads a designated book on leadership and participates in a discussion led by a member of the Sheriff’s Office Senior Leadership Team. It is anticipated that the three books for discussion would be: 1) The Five Levels of Leadership (Maxwell); 2) The Courageous Follower (Chaleff); and 3) The Mission, the Men and Me (Blaber). There would also be three discussions led by a professional facilitator. The books covered in those three sessions would be: 1) Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie) and 2) Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Bradberry and Greaves). In addition, the sessions, conducted by a professional facilitator, would include several discussion topics currently addressed in POST Supervisory and Management Schools. Some examples of those topics include understanding the difference between power and authority, defining skills and outlining strategies for supervising critical incidents, and defining how individuals are accountable within an organization.
Addressing Community Concerns
In listening to community members’ concerns about the Sheriff’s Office, Law Enforcement, and Napa County Government, it is abundantly clear that the concerns change based on where a resident lives. In other words, Up Valley residents have very different concerns versus residents in and around Napa, versus residents of American Canyon. Up Valley residents are concerned primarily about wildfires and a belief that they are underserved compared to those who live in Yountville, Napa, or American Canyon. In and around Napa, the primary concern is homelessness issues, and historically those in American Canyon are concerned primarily with traffic and safety issues.
Primarily the focus of the Sheriff’s Office during wildfires is working with Napa County Fire/CAL Fire to evacuate those areas where the residents are in danger from fire activity. Secondarily, deputies provide security for evacuated areas and often engage in activities that might not necessarily seem traditional in terms of law enforcement but are, nevertheless, important when examined in context. As an example, deputies have watered and fed livestock in order to ensure their survival. Also, I approved the purchase of several chainsaws during the LNU Complex Fire and the Glass Fire where deputies were able to make good use of these tools to clear roads to ensure they were not trapped behind fallen trees. A more in-depth investigation showed that deputies could make a beneficial impact without crossing into actual fire suppression by equipping two or three patrol cars with towed-water trailers equipped independently with powered pumps. If these were available, it would enable deputies to extinguish small spot fires safely, preventing them from becoming larger fires. These water trailers would be particularly useful in early-stage larger fires when fire resources are understandably overworked and understaffed.
It is also important as we move forward to continue to leverage technology. For this reason, I spearheaded the Zonehaven project, which is a tool that allows public safety to predesign evacuation zones as well as preplan road closures and areas of particular concern, etc. It will be important going forward that we continue to watch for new products, technology-dependent or not, that will enhance our ability to get people to safety efficiently, maximizing our resources.
Lack of Services—Up Valley
Throughout my career, I have heard many times that people in Up Valley don’t get the same level of service on a day-to-day basis that people who live in the more populated areas do. Long response times to calls can (at times) be attributed to a lack of strategically placed resources since the main Sheriff’s Office is south of Napa, and the majority of deputies servicing the Up Valley area report to the main office. The time has come for the Sheriff’s Office and Napa County to consider acquiring or developing a north substation where deputies could report. This would not only strengthen the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to respond in a timely manner, but it would also signify to the local populace that they are important to the county as a whole. Additionally, this station could be manned by professional staff during business hours so that people could obtain copies of reports, ask questions, or just see a smiling face that is associated with the Sheriff’s Office. Coincidentally, the city of St. Helena is currently in need of a new police station. Perhaps this could be an opportunity to discuss a partnership between the city and county to create a Public Safety building where residents would have a unique opportunity to access both agencies at the same location.
I think we can all agree that homelessness should not be a license to persecute individuals, but rather to devote significant time and resources to help those who are simply in need of a helping hand back into permanent housing. That being said, while homelessness is not a crime and should not be prosecuted as one, there are homeless people who commit crimes, and they should not be allowed to do so with impunity. The root causes of homelessness are complex and varied and cannot be resolved by simply arresting people. Because the issues are complex and multi-jurisdictional, I believe the time has come to institute a multi-disciplinary as well as a multi-jurisdictional task force to help transition people to a better living environment, and to hold them accountable when their negative behavior impacts those around them.
I envision a group of staff members from the Sheriff’s Office, the Napa Police Department, Napa County Probation, Napa County Mental Health, and homeless outreach specialists. This strong coalition group together could provide critical needs simultaneously from mental health to social services to law enforcement services. In this way, we would be able to incentivize productive behavior and disincentivize negative behavior from a multitude of angles.